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Coronavirus Act review offers vital opportunity to introduce emergency law to protect doctors

Post date: 10/09/2020 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 17/09/2020

The upcoming review of the Coronavirus Act offers a vital opportunity for the Government to introduce emergency legislation to protect healthcare professionals following the difficult clinical decisions they have, and continue to make, during the pandemic –Medical Protection said today.

In its submission to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, Medical Protection said the Government was quick to confirm indemnity arrangements for those facing clinical negligence claims but no progress had been made in providing healthcare professionals with reassurance that they will not face unfair investigations by their employer, regulator or – in the most extreme of cases – by the criminal justice system.

From the start of the pandemic, Medical Protection has called for the introduction of emergency laws to protect healthcare professionals from such investigations - and it now urges the Government to use the 6-month review and vote on the Coronavirus Act to ensure the issue is addressed swiftly.

Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection, said: “Healthcare professionals have been treating patients with a new disease of which we have a growing but still very limited understanding. Many have been working with stretched resources, outside of their normal area of expertise and sometimes without adequate PPE. Others have made the selfless decision to join the workforce early or to return from retirement to support the NHS.

“These doctors tell us they are concerned that they will face investigation for clinical decisions made in good faith. The suspension of routine investigations and outpatient appointments, and the resulting backlog of referrals, will also give rise to medicolegal disputes and investigations.

“It could be some time before such investigations are handled and at this point memories of this difficult time and challenging circumstances may have faded. Now more than ever, healthcare professionals need to know they are supported.

“The 6-month review point and vote on the provisions set out in the Coronavirus Act - as required under Section 98 of the Act - offers an opportunity for the Government to make a bold show of its support by introducing emergency laws for healthcare professionals who have been treating patients and making decisions in good faith during this crisis. Such legal protections should be temporary, applicable only over the duration of the pandemic, and of course not apply to wilful or intentional criminal harm or reckless misconduct.

“We understand legislative changes can be complex, however at the height of the pandemic the Government demonstrated how quickly it can move to introduce new Bills and bring temporary changes to regulations. Introducing temporary, emergency laws to protect the healthcare workers who have given so much, is achievable with drive and commitment.”

 

END

  • The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus was set up to ensure that lessons are learned from the UK’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak so far such that the UK’s response and preparedness may be improved in future. Since July 2020, they have been calling for evidence to be submitted to inform its recommendations to the UK Government.
  • Medical Protection submitted written evidence to the inquiry, and Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Protection Medical Director, gave evidence at the oral session on 9 September 2020.
  • Under Section 98 of the Coronavirus Act, there is a requirement for a six-monthly review so MPs can vote on whether to keep provisions of Act in force. The Act was passed on 25 March 2020 so this review is expected to take place soon.

For further information contact: kate.tullett@medicalprotection.org +44 (0)7515 298791.

About MPS

The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”) is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.


 

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